In sevens rugby, Australia and the Black Ferns have been neighboring rivals for years.
Australia notably won the first-ever Olympic Gold medal in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 after they beat the crowd favorite, New Zealanders, who seemed to fumble under the Aussie defense.
Since then, The New Zealand Black Ferns have pledged to themselves; to never let that happen again. They then began to dominate the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in the next several years as they build up for their Olympic return.
In the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, The Black Ferns dominated the tournament as they have year-in-year-out since Rio. Only one team came close to beating the Black Ferns, and to the world’s surprise, it was the Fijiana women who came in hungry for an Olympic medal. They eventually won Fiji’s first-ever bronze medal in women’s sports.
While the Australian women, under new management and coaching staff failed to retain their gold medal or even finish on the podium. The Black Ferns went on to beat France by a large margin at the Olympic Finals to capture their much-awaited Olympic gold medal.
This was a clear hint that the ongoing pandemic helped catapult the Black Ferns further away from their 7s circuit rivals. Other podium contenders like Canada and the USA seemed to have taken a hard hit as they continue to gather their footing after the pandemic, while France, is improving, but they are still far from the Kiwi’s level of play.
Border closures and difficulties due to the pandemic on the part of New Zealand left the Olympic Champions to miss out on the World Sevens circuit soon after.
While Australian Rugby re-evaluated their women’s 7s coaching staff and decided to bring back their Rio Olympic gold medal coach, Tim Walsh. The head coach had been assigned to their men’s 7s team after the Rio Olympic Games but has failed to give them the same level of success as the women’s side.
With Walsh back behind the women’s 7s program, a steep uphill climb in their pools improvement and the Black Ferns’ absence, it has been noticeable during the 2022 World Sevens Series that Australia was back in their 2016 shape. With many new faces like Maddison Levi stepping up to continue where her seniors left off.
As Langford 7s came closer, news broke that the Black Ferns will finally be making their much-awaited return to the World Circuit. Fans wondered if this would mean that the Kiwis would dominate the Women’s 7s rugby again, but Langford saw a different story.
Though New Zealand came in the Canadian leg strong and dominated their other rivals, Australia was still the team to beat. The two Pacific Island rivals met each other in the finals where they showcased one of the most exciting games of 2022.
The two nations exchanged tries throughout the finals, denying each other easy tries and showing world-class skills with little errors from both sides. At the final hooter, New Zealand had a four-point lead, but Australia had the ball. The Aussies continued to play without error for two minutes overtime, phase after phase, waiting for the Black Ferns to make a mistake. But a missed tackle from the kiwis in their red zone left the Australians wide open for a try inbetween the posts, winning Langford 7s. This may have just been the mark of New Zealand’s dominance in women’s rugby 7s.
While Australia is already the sure HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2022 overall champions, there is still one more leg where they can assert their dominance, France 7s. The last leg will be hosted by the Olympic silver medalists and will give Australia a chance to prove again that they are now the team to beat.
But New Zealand may come back in the European leg stronger, it being only their second tournament in months. While, the Fijiana women continue to knock on the doors of their Pacific Islander neighbors.
It’s an exciting time for women’s rugby, as the pandemic has changed most of the squads in the circuit, creating more unpredictability in the women’s tournaments. Who will rise to the challenge in France?